England v India, NatWest series August 28, 2007

If it ain't fixed, go for broke

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan believes it's time for India to think out of the box in their batting to keep alive the ODI series against England



India possess a manic hitter who averages 71.22 while batting at No. 3. Mahendra Singh Dhoni doesn't mind batting anywhere and is the sort you'd want to back in such situations © Getty Images

Rahul Dravid, the Indian captain, must be feeling like a race-car driver running on empty. India started the series without many bowling options and have reached the halfway point with little to expect from its fielding. The batting order is still not settled and with four games left - and no time to refuel, such is the packed schedule - the team needs to pull something out of the hat to win the series.

The batting is strong but some cracks remain. Dinesh Karthik's promotion to No. 3 was an experiment that didn't work at Edgbaston but it was a gamble worth taking. He'd handled the new ball in the Tests and could be asked to hold the innings together in ODIs as well. With stroke-players around him, and no slouch himself, here's a chance to mould a No. 3 for the future.

Dravid's statements after the game at Edgbaston suggested their plan was to persist with Karthik at No. 3. "It was not impulsive, he would have gone in at No. 3 the other day as well," he said. "It's just that [in Bristol] we got a good start and decided to send Yuvraj. Dinesh [Karthik] has done well in this tour as an opener so we wanted to give him more chances. He got out today, but that is OK. It's part and parcel of the game and look at someone like Ian Bell. They have given him a lot of time. Therein lies a lesson for everybody."

However, India must ask themselves some questions: Are they going to win this series by building innings brick by brick or will they need to infuse some mayhem? Do they have the all-round game to get at England or do they need a shock weapon to unsettle the opposition?

Paul Collingwood's comment on England's fearless approach is instructive. "You try to have a new approach after you take over the captaincy and you introduce new tactics. To play good cricket you need to set a pattern and we're trying to filter it [fearlessness] and streamline it into our blood."

With their options slowly closing, India could do worse than launch a full-scale destruction mission, doing something unexpected.

India possess a manic hitter who averages 71.22 while batting at No. 3. Mahendra Singh Dhoni doesn't mind batting anywhere and is the sort you'd want to back in such situations. He can either be a spectacular success or a spectacular failure but is worth a punt. Dhoni has two hundreds and two fifties from that position and few would have forgotten his explosive 183 against Sri Lanka in Jaipur, while chasing a target of 299.

Dhoni at three would split the experienced batsmen. India will still look to Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly for starts and continue to rely on Rahul Dravid to finish but Dhoni could be used to trigger a momentum shift. As with Virender Sehwag in the past, a quick 30 or 40 from him could alter the dynamics of the match and catch England napping. He needs to be given carte blanche to express himself in the early overs. If he gets out in the process, so be it.

Robin Uthappa is another batsmen with a wild streak but it's going to be tough to fit him into the XI, especially with the five-bowler combination. Yet the longer India play safe, the farther the series will slip from them. When none of your plans are working you might as well go for broke. And if you're really going down, might as well go down swinging.

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

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